Annotation and language tabs

2/12/2004 – In this week's ChessBase Workshop, we show how to add color to the annotations in your Notation pane and offer an important tip to annotators who are writing for worldwide electronic distribution. You will find it all explained in plain English in Steve Lopez's weekly ChessBase Workshop...

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by Steve Lopez

For the last several weeks I've been working on editing a chess book written by someone else; I'm preparing it for possible electronic publication. The work has me thinking a lot about the annotation windows in ChessBase 8 and, more specifically, about the way annotations appear in the finished product.

I sometimes encounter ChessBase users who want to make the annotations stand out in the Notation pane. That's a problem which is easily addressed. ChessBase 8 gives you the ability to add color to text annotation to make them stand out from the game's moves. It's a pretty simple thing to do. Open a game in ChessBase 8, go to the Tools menu, choose "Options", and then click on the "Notation" tab in the Options dialogue. Click on the button that says "Text color"; this will open the standard Windows color palette. You can select a color for the annotations in a number of ways. You can pick a color from the "Basic colors" portion of the palette just by clicking on one of the colored boxes. You could also go to the color palette on the right and drag the crosshairs to a new color. If you're really good at this stuff, you can type numbers in the "Hue", "Sat", "Lum", "Red", "Green", and "Blue" boxes for some extra fine-tuning (they'll accept values from 0 to 240 for the first three and from 0 to 255 for the three color boxes).

You can also change the color of "second level" variations (that is, variations which appear in parentheses within other variations) in much the same way. Click the "Variation color" button to get the Windows color palette -- it works the same way as described in the previous paragraph.

That's all some pretty handy stuff to know, but it's not really the point of this week's Workshop. The real point has to do with writing annotations. No, this won't be English 101 and won't talk about style or sentence structure. Have a look at this:

You've doubtless seen this dialogue before: it's the annotation window -- the place where you type in the text notes to a particular move in a chess game. Look closely at the top of the display; what are all of those file tabs used for?

Each of those tabs represents a different language. From left to right in the graphic (excluding the "All" tab), these are: English, German (i.e. "Deutsch"), French, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch. There are other tabs farther to the right which can be accessed using the arrow buttons to the right of the file tabs.

Now contrary to what you might be thinking, ChessBase does not translate text from one language to another (and, contrary to what you might have heard, no software program can do this flawlessly, not even high-dollar commercial programs that are designed primarily for this purpose). So what's the purpose of these tabs?

That can best be explained with a (fictional) example. Let's say that a Spanish IM (we'll call him IM de la Vega) decides to annotate a chess game for electronic publication (as part of a large database or maybe as part of a small downloadable chess book). Since he's annotating in his native tongue he selects the "Esp" tab, since that corresponds to the language he's writing in, each time he types in a text annotation.

So far, so good. Now let's say that there's a not-so-fictional American chess writer (we'll call him Patzer Lopez) decides to purchase and download IM de la Vega's chess book. Let's have a look at my language selections in ChessBase 8. We'll go to Tools/Options and select the "Language" tab:

Note that I've selected "English" for my first language and "German" for my second. This is crucial: what this means is that I will see no game annotations unless they were typed in the Annotation dialogue under either the "All'', "English", or "German" tabs. So I will not be seeing any of IM de la Vega's annotations, since he typed them under the "Esp" (Spanish) tab.

In some cases this would be no big deal. But it might be a big deal in this case. I don't speak much Spanish (and, before you ask, my grandparents were Portuguese, not Spanish) but I can read a bit of it (I know enough of the language and its verb conjugations that I can decipher a typical chess annotation. I have a few Spanish language chess magazines in my collection and I can figure out most of what the game annotators are saying). So I could actually be missing out on some potentially enlightening text.

One way I can ensure that I'll see IM de la Vega's commentary is if I select the "All" radio button in the Language dialogue; this will display all text annotations, regardless of what language tab they were typed under. But there's another potential pitfall here, too. Let's say that IM de la Vega is fluent in both Spanish and English and has typed his annotations in both of those languages, instead of Spanish only. If I have the "All" button selected, I'll see "duplicated" annotations (if he annotates 23.Bb5+ as "Good!" under one tab and "Bueno!" under another, I'll see "23.Bb5+ Good! Bueno!" in my Notation pane). If the text annotations are long ones, this will lead to a very cluttered Notation pane display.

And, by a very oblique path, we've just illustrated the entire point of the language tabs. They're included in CB8 to allow annotators to create notes in more than one language. And the point of the language settings in the "Options" dialogue is to allow users to control exactly what annotations they'll see. This is why you'll sometimes open a game that's listed in the game list with a "C" (for "Commentary") and wind up seeing no text; an example might be if Joel Lautier has annotated a game in French and you don't have French selected as one of your visible languages.

So why is any of this important to the potential annotator? It comes back to the editing job I'm currently doing. The annotator used the "Eng" tab for all annotations in the database, but English was the only language he was writing in -- there are no other languages used in the database. Theoretically a bilingual Columbian chessplayer (who understands both English and Spanish) might buy the disk, open up a game, and see no annotations because he doesn't have "English" selected as one of his visible languages (and he'll therefore be missing out on text that would be perfectly understandable to him). So what I'm doing with this database is cutting and pasting the commentary from the "Eng" tab over to the "All" tab, and then deleting the commentary under the "Eng" tab -- in other words, I'm moving the text commentary from "Eng" to "All".

Here's my way of thinking. If the user understands English, great! He's going to see the notes. If he doesn't understand English, no big deal -- he can just ignore the text.

And that brings us straight to the whole point of this article: a tip for chess annotators. If you're annotating in just one language, be sure to use the "All" tab; this will ensure that your readers will always see your text commentary no matter what. If you're one of those rare birds who's going to be annotating games in multiple languages, that's when you want to use the specific language tabs -- this will allow your readers to use the "Language" options to "mask" the languages they don't need to see, providing them with a significantly less cluttered Notation pane.

That, friends, is just another advantage electronic chess books have over printed volumes -- just try doing that trick with a paper chess book!

Until next week, have fun!

© 2004, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

Topics cb8
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